The River Review: Where is Emmet Cole?

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"Magus" starts the one show I have been waiting for for almost a year. I had the privilege of seeing it at Comic Con last summer and have been anxious for others to join ever since. I wasn't disappointed and I hope you weren't either.

We know two things: Americans love reality shows and they love the Paranormal Activity series. Will they therefore love the pilot of The River, a scripted program that follows a simulated reality show by the director of the Paranormal Activity series, Oren Peli? Logic would say yes, but if there's one thing I have never been able to gauge, it’s the reaction of the scored viewing audience in these United States.

The River Premiere Pic

For 22 years the Cole family sailed around the world on the Magus filming "The Undiscovered Country." Much like Steve Irwin’s The Crocodile Hunter, Emmet Cole involved his entire family and, in doing so, made his program a worldwide sensation.

When we catch up with the Coles, Emmet has been lost and presumed dead. His wife, Tess, hasn’t given up hope, and neither has the network. Emmet Cole equals money. What better than a show following the loving wife and son of the beloved Emmet Cole try to find their missing patriarch?

Joined by past crew members and their family, cameramen and directors they travel into the deep recesses of the Amazonian jungle to hunt down Emmet’s emergency beacon. Nothing could have prepared them for what they found.

This is where the influence of Peli takes over and the real fun begins. Emmet has gone places no family man would go, investigating spirits and other unknown entities. The Magus holds no survivors, but instead an encapsulated spirit that is inadvertently let out by our erstwhile adventurers.

For me, The River works. Bruce Greenwood is “every man.” There is no doubt in my mind that if he was the lead on "The Undiscovered Country" as an actual television program, his show would last for 22 years. Greenwood’s career has the same staying power. A casual, comfortable performer, he is trustworthy and attractive. You want to believe him. Yes, there is magic out there. Emmet Cole told me so!

Choosing a relatively obscure cast for many of the main roles lends credence to the reality factor. Much like the Paranormal Activity franchise, it’s easy to believe these people are in the middle of this really freaky situation. When Lincoln and Lena are freeing the propeller from weeds and rushes, your mind jumps to the classic horror film: it’s going to start! Someone is going to lose an arm! But The River is a little more subtle than that.

Joe Anderson’s Lincoln Cole is the most compelling character, deeply affected by the torn life he had at the hands of his father’s desire to follow a dream under the never-ending spotlight of television. In a way, he believes his entire life was a lie, made up for the cameras.

One of my favorite moments was the schticky monster tossing around Sammy while the lead cameraman, AJ, lost his “balls” and jumped over the edge of the boat. You wonder, will every episode feature fun scenes with ghosties and ghouls? I hope so. While the genres are on a completely different spectrum, American Horror Story proved there is room on the small screen for horror. If done right, people will tune in.

It’s time to see if Oren Peli can do for the small screen what he did for the big.


Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 3.9 / 5.0 (52 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter and on Google+.


It wasnt thaaat bad...i kinda liked it.....


I watched the pilot, and I didn't watch the second episode. The pilot sucks. The show sucks! Really! The acting is hilarious! The story is a LOST wanna be! I am really disappointed because I waited for this show, and it wasn't even worth watching. Its just sad. :( It was like wasting an hour of television. Paranormal Activity is way better than this. And I also think it wouldn't be renewed.


I'm giving it one more shot. Thought that it would be so much MORE..... Another lesson in don't believe the hype. Is disjointed storytelling the new wave of things? If so thank god for my kindle. The only thing that really creeped me out was the dolls.... If they'd have thrown in a couple of clowns I might have actually been completely wigged. :)


Boring. Boring. Did I say boring yet? My husband and I had been looking forward to this show for months and couldn't wait to sink right into the two hour pilot. Now keep in mind we both watch a lot of television and like all sorts of stuff. We could barely make it through the first hour. At the one hour mark, we deleted it and any future episodes from our Tivo. We had just lost an hour of time we will never get back for a lousy show. Honestly, I love Paranormal Activity and those types of films, but there is no way I could watch this poor excuse for television.


I found myself bored out my brains almost immediately. The handheld camera doesn't work for the show either, it looks cheap and poorly made.


I found it boring, didn't stick around for the second hour.


Was well done, may watch again. It didn't pull me in like I thought it would.
To be honest I was waiting for the Smoke Monster to come rushing by.


Hey, they didn't kill the Black character first!

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The River Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

Hi there. I'm on the Amazon. Not a lot of other Jews out here though.


There is magic out there!